When Diablo III launched, I wrote a pretty scathing review of it, then vanished into academia and far from the lands of gaming. On rising from that mound of books and paper, staring blinky-like at the sun of all things changed (Next gen console? You mean the 360, right?), the first wind of change to smack me was that Blizzard planned to shitcan the Diablo III auction house system, completely, in prelude to a new expansion pack.
A Review of Blizzard, First
So that everything is aboveboard in this review, know that I am not Blizzard’s biggest fan. I bought Diablo III back when it was packaged with a year’s subscription to WoW, and had a lot of fun zooming around on the Tyrael Charger. Good stuff, until the homework mound hit. I went a few months without playing WoW, and learned that I could not, under any circumstances, cancel the subscription because of the Diablo III package deal. Made sense. The game was more expensive that way, especially since I was no longer using WoW to make the package valuable. Customer service didn’t care, but in fairness to them, the deal had plenty of warning about this.
Diablo III came out and the launch was riddled with horrible, horrible problems. On top of all this, the story was fan fiction quality, and playing required an always-on connection to what were at the time incredibly unstable servers. I liked my Wizard, though, and saw a lot of potential for fun. I kept playing.
Act IV hit my computer like a freight train. Massive, horrible slowdown, all the time—textures turned bizarre colors—and then the inevitable crash to desktop. I called technical support, and they were exceptionally rude about pointing out that my video card wasn’t supported. I have a very hippy-dippy attitude about people who work in call centers, and always try my best to be a beam of sunshine for them, mostly because I know from personal experience that the call queue is full of assholes.
But this guy—Christ. He treated me like absolute garbage because I dared to buy the game even though there was a massive list on the tech support forums of non-supported video cards. Never mind that my video card wasn’t actually on that list—I was a huge moron. He hung up on me after about 15 minutes. It was a bizarre, otherworldly experience.
A new computer later (I needed to upgrade anyway, and buying fun toys makes me not think about people I dislike) and I was done with Hell difficulty, working my way into Inferno. Inferno was… impossible. Then my account got compromised. Customer support was again distinctly hostile to me, and even after sending them a picture of my photo ID, they treated me as if I were a crook trying to steal, rather than regain control of my account. This was only a week or so after the tech support incident, so I, because of the company, gave up on the game.
I really wish the story ended there. I do.
More than a year later, I noticed that I was still being charged for World of Warcraft, but couldn’t gain access to my account. I called customer service, and learned that they don’t do refunds. They were nice to me, this time, but frankly, I’d earned a friendly voice at the low, low price of $230.
Time passes. I learn of the Loot 2.0 and the Reaper of Souls expansion, figure—eh, why not? I already owned the game, and from a certain point of view, I’d paid a lot of goddamn money for it. I go to sign into Battle.net to start downloading Diablo III.
Account compromised, of course. And it took two electronic tickets, a phone call, and two scans of my photo ID to get it back. Online Banking, Steam, Paypal, WordPress, Origin, Twitter, Facebook, Reddit—those accounts, I use every day, without ever having lost access to them. Battle.net, though? It might as well be a timeshare I own with thirty men in China.
TL;DR – Blizzard makes Bart angry.
Diablo III and Loot 2.0
Some of my complaints about Diablo III were tied into the storyline and aesthetic. Those, obviously, weren’t fixed and I didn’t expect them to be. But comparable games don’t have better storylines and pound for pound, nothing matches the breathtaking beauty of a cut scene from this game. Couple that with Diablo III being an astounding pretty game, and there’s a solid three star balance between mishandled story and eye candy. I maintain that, if everyone skips the cut scenes by default, they need either be better, shorter, interruptible with action, or non-existent. I’d rather have no story than a terrible one.
That grumping behind me—wow. Loot 2.0 and the collective patches since the game’s launch have effectively murdered any complaint I have about it. Even before the expansion pack, this game was crack cocaine. The gameplay is fantastic, if lacking the strategy and tactics I tend to prefer in my dungeon crawls (blame Dungeons & Dragons in my formative years), and Loot 2.0 makes randomly stomping open every crate and stray monster fun. It’s great finding loot that I always have a chance of caring about, rather than only occasionally finding anything with the potential to be useful.
My wizard tends to find wizard items, my demon hunter tends to find demon hunter items, and that’s just better.
I still find crap I’ll never use, but finding items with stats to spells and abilities I care about makes me think about potential builds, try new skill sets, and generally keeps me thinking while I go through my piles of loot.
Reaper of Souls
Act V is everything aesthetically that Diablo I used to be. Fighting evil on a city of corpses is fun, the music is sexy as hell (where I’d never noticed it before in the other acts), and the premise of the extended plotline is interesting, and perhaps on the merits of being shorter, manages to entertain me rather than offend me.
Adventure Mode turns Diablo III into a game I can play the way I do Team Fortress 2—quick sessions where I accomplish one or two goals, admire my loot and stats, and then get back to work. This is a serious boon to players who don’t have the time or desire to play lengthy sessions. It lets casual gamers feel powerful without grinding for six hundred hours, and it lets non-casuals dump time into finding the perfect trifecta of stats on their gear.
The new class is entertaining; Crusaders feel, mechanically, like Cavaliers from AD&D but with a modern spin. There are still a few bugs with their skills, but nothing game breaking and despite my lengthy rant about Blizzard as a company, they have a strong history of killing bugs quickly. It’s their product, after all, they push the good stuff.
That’s right. Diablo III: Reaper of Souls is crack cocaine, and Blizzard is the seedy, yellow-toothed dealer you get it from.